Don’t Look Back in Anger - @Bengalli33
NBA Playoffs Round 1 Recap (Round 2 Preview below)
That Game 7 though. Wow. That might go down as one of the best Game 7’s in Playoff history. It’s a pity it was in Round 1. Would have much rather seen Warriors-Rockets and Clippers-Spurs as Second Round series. Just the flow and closeness of the game was impressive. (there were 31 lead changes(12 in 4th, and 16 ties!) At halftime, the Spurs were shooting 53% from the field. L.A. shot at a 51.9% clip from 3 point land for the entire game. Blake Griffin had a triple double, Tim Duncan had 27 and 11 on 11/16 shooting, but this was Chris Paul’s masterpiece.
The biggest game of his career and a legendary Hall of Fame performance. When CP3 left late in the 1st quarter, grabbing his hamstring, you felt 2 things: One, L.A. wasn’t winning without Chris Paul and Two, Chris Paul was gonna come back and play. And play he did. Paul had 5 points and 3 assists when he left the game. He returned to the court near the end of the 2nd quarter and proceeded to add 22 more points and this remarkable shot over Tim Duncan. Let no one doubt Chris Paul again.
Los Angeles Clippers: 4 San Antonio Spurs: 3 (My Prediction, Spurs 4-3)
From Hall of Fame, to Hall of Shame. Nearly a week before Paul’s legendary performance, the infamous antics of Kelly Olynyk had enraged the Cleveland contingent. Judge for yourself:
Perhaps the gangly Olynyk didn’t mean to sideline Love for 4-6 months, but his actions were surely not accidental. No NBA player can be that uncoordinated. And to think most people would root for the kid from Dazed and Confused all grown up.
Kendrick Perkins was put in later to do what Kendrick Perkins is put in games to do. Be flagrantly surly. Later, as is J.R. Smith’s MO, he took things a little too far in the 3rd quarter with his spinning backfist of Jae Crowder, earning J.R. a 2 game suspension for the beginning of the Cavs most important series to date (see below). I doubt Kelly Olynyk will ever have as great an impact on the NBA Playoffs as he did with his dirty play that Sunday.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 4 Boston Celtics: 0 (My Prediction, Cavs 4-0)
There were some surprises in the first round of this year’s playoffs, most notably the lack of competitive series for the most part. Of course, everything was always going to be overshadowed by the Spurs and Clippers, two title contenders somehow having to face off in the 1st round but otherwise it was just kind of a ho-hum first round.
The Washington Wizards really took it to the North. I really wasn’t sure which of these teams would have won this series but I definitely would not have predicted the Wiz in a sweep.
Washington Wizards: 4 Toronto Raptors: 0 (My prediction, Wizards 4-3)
I wasn’t as surprised by the outcome of this series, but I was a little dismayed by how the Blazers let themselves get dominated for the most part. Losing Wes Matthews was one thing, but your best player shooting 33% (career avg: 48%) and Dame Lillard’s defense getting exposed spells trouble for Portland’s future. The whispers are getting louder about LaMarcus Aldridge going to San Antonio or Dallas.
Memphis Grizzlies: 4 Portland Trail Blazers: 1 (My prediction, Grizzlies 4-2)
It wasn’t that I doubted the Warriors as much as I respected the greatness of the individual Anthony Davis when I predicted G State wouldn’t sweep. I wrote about what happened here but the Warriors were always going to advance.
Golden State Warriors: 4 New Orleans Pelicans: 0 (My prediction, Warriors 4-1)
The only thing that told me anything from the Mavs-Rockets series, is that Dallas players voted to not give Rajon Rondo a share of their playoff bonus. It wasn’t a money thing, as Rondo missed out on a little less than an estimated $14,000. That guy is the current definition of high risk, high reward. With many doubting how high that reward actually is.
Houston Rockets: 4 Dallas Mavericks: 1 (My prediction, Rockets 4-1)
The Hawks will be the Hawks will be the Hawks will be the Hawks. Deron Williams prioritized basketball over the buffet line for 1 game and the Nets appeared a slight threat but only because few outside of the ATL give the Hawks a second glance.
Atlanta Hawks: 4 Brooklyn Nets: 2 (My prediction, Hawks 4-1)
The Bucks showed some spunk by taking this series to 6 games and they will definitely be a team to watch next year. I cannot remain silent however, on more important matters of justice. We continue to live in a society where a “thug” from New Jersey will receive a 2 game suspension for an act of retaliation whereas an All American from Duke will receive no suspension for a similar act of actual aggression. Obviously I’m exaggerating the social relevance but at the same time, sports and society are mirrors into truth, and worthy of at least some analysis. Plus, I’m biased for Cleveland. Dunleavy’s play below led him to getting absolutely decked by the Greek Freak who’s growing up fast before our very eyes.
Chicago Bulls: 4 Milwaukee Bucks: 2 (My prediction, Bulls 4-1)
Love Will Keep Us Together. Round 2 Preview
Each conference is down to their own Final Four. As usual, the West has more intriguing matchups than the East but the most intriguingest one of them all is da’ Bulls versus Cleveland. Let’s get to the other three first.
#1 Atlanta Hawks vs. # 5 Washington Wizards
One of the writing guidelines I adopted a long time ago was don’t waste too many words on the Atlanta Hawks. Let people in Atlanta discuss them and root for them and suffer their inevitable disappointments. Even with “team basketball” and “unselfishness” and “Popovich disciple” as catch phrases surrounding this team, does anyone else really give a damn? I admit it is interesting to see if they can succeed against superstar laden teams but I feel I already know the answer to that.
A good test will be John Wall’s Wizards. Wall is as fast as a bullet and I can’t stop using bullets to describe Washington’s basketball team. The Wizards have an intriguing team with young sharpshooter Bradley Beal, the always dangerous Paul Pierce, and the recent emergence of former 3rd pick in the draft, Otto Porter Jr. Still they ended the season struggling majorly and it is always hard to pick a team to win 4 games against a team that won 14 more regular season games including 3 of 4 head to head. But Atlanta doesn’t have a real go to guy especially with Horford not being 100%. And I’m on the John Wall bandwagon.
Pick: Washington in 7
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies
What happened to Mike Conley Jr’s face? Guy had to get plates surgically inserted and has already missed 3 games in the playoffs including Game 1 of the Warriors series. That must have been the hardest elbow ever. With Conley at full go, the Grizzlies did pose a challenge to the Warriors because of the always difficult matchups that Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol pose both on offense and defense.
Conley’s a gamer so I expect he’ll be back for Game 2 but the Warriors are playing really well right now. Their comeback against the Pelicans, from 20 points down in the 4th quarter, may have given the team the indomitable confidence that leads some to magical postseason runs. The Grizzlies will still be the toughest defense the Warriors play in the West and I still think they find a way to steal 2 games. But deserved MVP Steph F’in Curry will get to his first Conference Finals.
Pick: Golden State in 6.
#2 Houston Rockets vs. # 3 Los Angeles Clippers
Clippers’ MVP Chris Paul will likely miss the first game of this series which gives Houston a great chance at taking advantage of a brief dip in the Clippers’ momentum. Perhaps finishing 2nd to Steph Curry will give James Harden the extra motivation to take no prisoners and carry Houston to a Conference Finals showdown with the guy who stole his MVP in the 2nd half of the season. Harden’s biggest challenges remain in his ability to get Howard and Josh Smith to play the playoff basketball they need to play. They both showed they could contribute against the Mavs, but these Clips are far removed from that team talent wise. With Doc Rivers at the helm and Chris Paul looking to advance to a Conference Finals for the first time in his career, Los Angeles looks too tough a matchup for Houston.
Pick: Los Angeles in 6
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. # 3 Chicago Bulls
This is the series that all eyes will be on in Round 2. So many questions raised by the unnecessary antics in the Cavs’ Game 4 clincher over Boston. (I really only mean Olynyk’s actions that led to everything else). Losing Kevin Love, who the Cavs traded the Rookie of the Year for, really hurts, especially mentally. Losing J.R. Smith for 2 games is not as bad but starts the series with Cleveland in an even deeper hole. The fact that Derrick Rose has not gotten hurt again and Jimmy Butler is playing lights out ball recently, gives the Bulls a seeming advantage.
But the Cavs have ability and versatility on the bench. They can change up what positions some of their players play most notably because of the 4 position monster LeBron is. They may not be able to stretch with Tristan Thompson playing more minutes, but he has been very solid on the glass. If some combination of James Jones, Mike Miller, and gulp! Shawn Marion, can put in some quality buckets, the Cavs can overcome the absence of Love. More than anything however, the Cavs know they all need to step it up with KLove out for the playoffs and that may be just the motivation they need to really come together as a true championship contender.
Pick: Cleveland in 7
And not to forget, the newest episode reflecting on this year’s playoffs: